Gentleman Snarker

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Lord Sandwich: I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox.
John Wilkes: That will depend, my lord, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.


A Deadpan Snarker can deliver clever one liners. A Gentleman Snarker is a type of Deadpan Snarker that can say ungentlemanly things as only a gentleman can. He is always polite, except when it is appropriate to be impolite. At that time he can slip an insult in as precisely as a rapier. This characteristic is well known among those with a Stiff Upper Lip and when done right can be quite awesome. Beware the Gentleman Snarker. If you want your pride punctured, he's the one to do it.

Often overlaps with Upper Class Wit. See also Servile Snarker - though due to Conservation of Competence, one is rarely in the employ of the other. A Gentleman Snarker may apply Sophisticated As Hell, very sparingly.

Examples of Gentleman Snarker include:

Films -- Animation


Captain Amelia: Doctor. To muse and blabber about a treasure map, in front of this particular crew, demonstrates a level of ineptitude that borders on the imbecilic. And I mean that in a very caring way.

    • And later during the same conversation with Doctor Doppler:

Captain Amelia: Let me make this as...monosyllabic as possible. I don't much care for this crew you hired they're... how did I describe them Arrow? I said something rather good this morning before coffee.
Mr Arrow: A ludicrous parcel of drivelling galoots, ma'am.
Captain Amelia: There you go; poetry.


Films -- Live-Action


"You've lost another submarine?"

  • The French movie Ridicule (often referred to as "Wit" in English-speaking countries) suggests that before the Revolution, the entire French political system revolved around who could do this most effectively.
    • After the Revolution, most of the entire political systems in the whole world began to revolve around who can do this most effectively...
  • Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. This characterization of the Captain is largely thanks to Christopher Plummer, who campaigned heavily for more plot development for his character. Apparently, he thought the original stage Captain was a milquetoast. He and costar Julie Andrews later said that they wanted to give the movie some strength and keep it from devolving into all sweetness and light. It worked—stage revivals largely follow the movie's script and not that of the original stage version.
  • Alfred Pennyworth is a master of this trope. Particularly evident in The Dark Knight.

Alfred: Will you be taking the Batpod, sir?
Bruce: (Rushing off to protect Coleman Reese) In broad daylight, Alfred? Not very subtle.
Alfred: The Lamborghini, then? (to self) Much more subtle.

  • Hobson in the film Arthur. So many snarky lines it is hard to pick one.

Hobson: Thrilling to meet you, Gloria.
Gloria: Hi.
Hobson: Yes... You obviously have a wonderful economy with words, Gloria. I look forward to your next syllable with great eagerness.


Lestrade: In another life, you would have made an excellent criminal.
Holmes: Yes, and you, Lestrade, an excellent policeman.




“I bring you news of no such disgusting spectacles.”
SUNDAY: “You mean Dr. Bull’s spectacles? …Really, to call them disgusting, before the man himself.”
“Look at my face!”
SUNDAY: “I dare say it’s the sort of face that grows on one. In fact, it grows on you.”

  • Discworld's Havelock Vetinari. The most magnificent Magnificent Bastard ever, he has a title, and if you actually read what he's saying carefully, he's unbelievably snarky.
    • This has become a major point of fear for those forced to frequently tell him things he's not going to like:

Colon: [with genuine dread] Lord Vetinari won't stop at sarcasm. He might use -- [swallowing] -- irony. He's probably going to be satirical, even ...

    • His lines in the council of war in Jingo are quite possibly the best examples.
  • Horatio Hornblower on one or two occasions.
  • Lord John Grey in the Outlander series is one of these, though generally managing to keep his words to himself. Claire Fraser has her own moments of Gentlewoman Snarkerishness.
  • The Wizard Howl from Howl's Moving Castle.
  • Bilbo Baggins has a few Gentleman Snarks in The Hobbit.
  • Artemis from Artemis Fowl is a prominent example of this
    • Artemis: (to Blunt) If you were me, then I'd be you, and if I were you, then I'd hide somewhere far away.
    • And, Artemis "Shall I walk? Or will you beam me up?
  • Sir John Babcock in Robert Anton Wilson's Historical Illuminatus Chronicles explains at one point to his Italian wife that the British young gentlemen's schools beat out all overt aggression from the boys, so that when grown up they'll make passive-aggressive insults masked as compliments instead of duelling to death like the Italian noblemen do. The main protagonist, Sigismundo Celine manages to be an excellent snarker himself, despite of his Neapolitan upbringing.
  • Jem Carstairs from the Clockwork Angel
  • Compared to the thuggish characters that populate his world, Philip Marlowe has a lot of tact and wit to his snarks.
  • Plenty of examples in Georgette Heyer's work. And the female counterparts, as well.

Live-Action TV

  • Simon Tam in Firefly, especially "Objects in Space": "I can't keep track of her when she's not incorporeally possessing a spaceship, don't look at me" along with "Well, my sister's a ship. We had a complicated childhood." And in "Safe": "I'm sorry dad, I would never have tried to save River's life if I had known there was a dinner party at risk."
    • Also, in the episode "Shindig" there's a distinguished old man at the eponymous shindig who comes to Kaylee's aid when she is being mocked by an Alpha Bitch for the store-bought dress that she wore:

Distinguished Old Man: Why, Banning Miller! What a vision you are in your fine dress. It must have taken a dozen slaves a dozen days just to get you into that getup. 'Course, your daddy tells me it takes the space of a schoolboy's wink to get you out of it again.

    • His Lordship Sir Warrick Harrow in that same episode:

Sir Warrick Harrow: Now, you're going to have to rely on your natural charm to get women. God help you.

  • Frasier and Niles Crane are the masters of this trope. In fact, the more viciously snarky they are, the politer and more refined their language becomes.
  • Higgins often did this to Magnum in Magnum, P.I.. He can't do it as well as some.
  • Clayton Webb in JAG is often like this.
  • Mr Feeny in Boy Meets World.
  • Bernard Thatch of the White House Visitor's Office in The West Wing:

Bernard: [The painting] was on loan from the Musee d'Orsay to the National Gallery. The President, on a visit to the gallery, and possessing even less taste in fine art than you have in accessories, announced that he liked the painting. The French government offered it as a gift to the White House. I suppose in retribution for EuroDisney. So here it hangs, like a gym sock on a shower rod.
C.J.: You're a snob.
Bernard: Yes.

  • Mr. Morden on Babylon 5 is something of a villainous version of this.
    • Mr. Bester is an even better example.
  • Charles Emerson Winchester III of M*A*S*H.
  • Robert Gilliaume in Soap and Benson.
  • Ianto Jones from Torchwood develops into something of this in later series.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower mini-series, Major Edrington is this, which contributes greatly to his fan popularity.

Edrington (watching Horatio try in vain to get on a horse): I can see why you chose the Navy.



  • Anna and Claire of Boston Marriage are rare female examples, and written by David Mamet no less.
  • Cyrano De Bergerac's wit is as sharp as his rapier, which is saying something.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • The Swan Princess has Lord Rogers, Prince Derek's good but sarcastic advisor. For example, after an epic foot-in-mouth scene from Prince Derek:

Lord Rogers: You could write a book. How to Offend Women in Five Syllables or Less.


Real Life

The Times is speechless, and takes three columns to express its speechlessness.
—Speech at Kinnaird Hall, Dundee, Scotland ("The Dundee Election"), May 14, 1908
We know that he has, more than any other man, the gift of compressing the largest number of words into the smallest amount of thought.
—Speaking of Ramsay MacDonald, during a speech in the House of Commons, March 23, 1933.
I want no criticism of America at my table. The Americans criticize themselves more than enough.
—As cited in Churchill By Himself
  • The Duke of Wellington
My heart is broken by the terrible loss I have sustained in my old friends and companions and my poor soldiers. Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.
—Letter from the field of Waterloo, June 1815
  • Several noted English intellectuals, including Chesterton, Orwell, and others.
  • Field Marshal Mannerheim. He could intimidate Hitler himself, possibly partly because of his Death Glare.
  • John Wilkes
  • This was once almost a necessary part of being a high class person and thus political insults of the past were just as common but at least more interesting.
  • Tim Gunn
  • Oscar Wilde is almost entirely known for this.
    • "A true gentleman is one who is never unintentionally rude"
    • His friend and later enemy James McNeill Whistler was also known for this
    • Ironically, Oscar Wilde is often claimed to have said "sarcasm is the lowest form of humor." If he had ever said that (he didn't), he would almost certainly have been saying it sarcastically.
  • George Bernard Shaw
Do not do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.
What really flatters a man is that you think him worth flattering.
John Bull's Other Island
  • Several American Presidents, especially Abraham Lincoln.
    • An excellent example: Lincoln thought that his General McClellan was reluctant to engage the enemy, and once sent him a note asking that, if McClellan wasn't using the army, perhaps Lincoln could borrow it for a couple of months?
  • Miss Manners.
  • W. S. Gilbert
A popular speaker, however unpopular and insignificant, has only to wind up his speech with half-a-dozen lines of Shakespeare (and to make it clearly understood that they are Shakespeare's) and he will sit down amid thunders of applause.
—"Unappreciated Shakespeare", Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, Christmas Number, 9 December 1882
Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it.
Twelve Types
The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.
Illustrated London News, 16 July 1910
  • C. S. Lewis[context?]
  • Tomás Rivera Schatz, President of the Senate of Puerto Rico, once said of another senator: "She reminds me of Mary Magdalene."
  • William F. Buckley Jr.
  • During the Napoleonic Wars the defecting French marshal Bernedotte strayed to close to French positions and a shell landed near him. He sent a parley with a letter of protest as it was bad manners to shoot at important people. The reply came back that the gunner had seen a French deserter and followed regulations.
  • An episode of Lady Snarking took place at the Congress of Vienna. The Czar Alexander(who had a reputation both for political and amorous greed)went up to the Countess Szechenyi-Guilford and said,"Madame, I note that your husband is not present; may I have the pleasure of occupying his place temporarily" to receive the reply,"Does your majesty take me for a province?"
  • One veteran French General had a neighbor who was constantly drooling over his mansion and his Chest of Medals. When the General tired of this, he said,"Well, if you want all these things come out into my garden and let me have ten shots at you at forty paces. If you survive I will hand over to you my house and everything in it." On receiving his neighbor's mild objection to the proposal, the general said,"All right, but remember that I had several hundred shots fired at me at that range before I got all those things."

-paraphrased from The Good Soldier by Archibald Wavell.